After being named the Arizona Diamondbacks’ 7th best prospect by Baseball America, upon the conclusion of the 2013 season, David Holmberg was acquired by the Cincinnati Reds for catcher Ryan Hanigan. With the Reds’ rotation set in 2014, the club assigned the young lefty to AAA Louisville to begin the season.
Although Holmberg began the year on the active roster, it was clear that he was not healthy as he struggled mightily in three April starts, before a left shoulder injury landed him on the disabled list on April 22nd. He returned in mid-May to make two stars, but his shoulder problems persisted, and he found himself back on the shelf on May 23rd. His lingering arm issues were definitely a factor in going 0-4 with a 10.50 ERA, in five starts, through May.
After another few weeks out of commission, Holmberg was reinstated to the active roster on June 11th to pitch against the Mississippi Braves. He struggled with command in his first start back, as he allowed eight hits and four walks, over four innings, but only surrendered two earned runs. The southpaw was much sharper in his next outing, as he punched out six Montgomery Biscuits’ hitters over six scoreless innings, while issuing only two free passes. For the month, Holmberg posted a sparkling 1.99 ERA, but battled control issues, as he posted a concerning 13/12 K/BB ratio in 22.2 innings.
As the calendar turned to July, Holmberg continued his turnaround as he permitted a single run in his first two starts, which were sandwiched around a rough outing versus the Cubs at Great American Ballpark. Although the results were mixed over his final three starts of the month, he was finally able to stretch out for the first time in 2014, and he appeared to harness his control. In these 19.1 innings, he walked only three batters, but posted a 4.66 ERA, in large part due to his struggles to miss bats (9.3% K-rate) and a .309 BAA.
After a shaky outing to begin his August, Holmberg put together two consecutive strong starts, as he fanned seven and walked three, allowing four earned runs over 12 innings. His production was good enough to earn him a second spot start for the big league team, but unfortunately, it went as poorly as the first. Holmberg would return to make one final start for Louisville, before being promoted back to Cincinnati as a September call-up.
The 23-year old southpaw fared much better against major league hitters this time around, as he pitched to a sterling 1.82 ERA, over five appearances (three starts), spanning 24.2 innings. He continued to struggle with giving up the long ball, but overall was much more effective in September. Holmberg was even dubbed the “Cardinal Killa’” by some (me), as he surrendered only two earned runs in 11.2 innings, while striking out 8 Redbirds.
David Holmberg’s career with the Cincinnati Reds could not have started much worse, as he fought injuries in Spring Training and for much of the first half of the season. He slowly regained his form throughout the year, and though he struggled to miss bats the entire year, he began to reclaim his control towards the end of the season with Louisville. Holmberg will hope for a healthy 2015, as he looks to compete for one of the available spots in the Reds’ rotation.
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